Can a digital archive actually enrich the user’s experience of a special collection? Can an online exhibit have rich, well-structured metadata and still be visually engaging and easy to navigate? And can all this be done without a dedicated web designer and a custom site for every exhibit?
These were the questions that La Salle University Special Collections Librarian Sarah Seraphin asked as she confronted the challenge of documenting a joint exhibition between the library and the University Art Museum last fall. As she experimented with ContentDM and Omeka, Sarah worried about the amount of time and resources required to customize a new website for the complex exhibit. But after talking with bepress, and Digital and Media Services Librarian Rebecca Goldman, who manages La Salle’s Digital Commons repository, Sarah realized that the repository offered a perfect solution. As Sarah puts it, “The beauty of using Digital Commons was that they created a very easy to use interface … but all of the design happens on their end. The purpose of La Salle’s Institutional Repository is ‘capturing and archiving the creative and scholarly work of the La Salle Community,’ and that was what we really wanted to do!”
The museum exhibit, entitled “War Is Not What You Think,” included original paintings and ceramic pieces by renowned artist Jane Irish, while the library showcased items from their extensive Vietnam-War-related collections, which had inspired and informed Irish’s artwork. By bringing the two exhibits together, the digital collection aimed to illuminate Irish’s own creative process and the broader cultural processes that have shaped the public’s perception of the Vietnam War.
With dedicated support from her Digital Commons Consultant to configure metadata and display options appropriately for the content, Sarah was free to focus on “the fun part”: photographing and processing the collections to an engaging user experience and a useful research tool. To explore the online exhibit, visit War Is Not What You Think. To read more about Sarah’s process, read her post in the La Salle University Special Collections blog.